Search

Twinning Team So close they share a toothbrush, the Bryan twins, Bob and Mike, are the world's No. 1 doubles duo

Sept. 01, 2003
Sept. 01, 2003

Table of Contents
Sept. 1, 2003

NFL Preview 2003

Twinning Team So close they share a toothbrush, the Bryan twins, Bob and Mike, are the world's No. 1 doubles duo

By Jon Wertheim

Two weeks ago Mike and Bob Bryan checked into a Marriott in
suburban Cincinnati, where they would stay during that city's
Tennis Masters Series tournament. In keeping with their ritual at
every ATP tour stop, the Bryans gave one key to their coach, Phil
Farmer, then lugged their bags to the room they would inhabit
jointly for the week. They unsheathed the laptop they share and
logged onto their common e-mail address before checking the
ever-burgeoning balance in their joint bank account. Using their
cellphone, they called their mom, Kathy, back in their hometown
of Camarillo, Calif., for a progress report on the work at the
monstrous Tuscan-style estate they recently bought together.
Eventually they got around to unpacking toiletries that included
a shared toothbrush.

This is an article from the Sept. 1, 2003 issue

You thought Venus and Serena Williams were the closest siblings
in tennis? They're mortal enemies compared with the Bryan twins,
25, who are nearly as inseparable as Chang and Eng. Perhaps
because the Bryans are invariably together, the majority of other
players on tour perceive them as a monolith. "What's up, twins?"
virtually all competitors called out as they passed Bob and Mike
in the Cincinnati players' lounge. (Helpful distinguishing
features: Mike has a small mole near his mouth; Bob wears beads.)
When the Bryans were freshmen at Stanford, the Cardinal's
estimable coach, Dick Gould, mistook one for the other so often
he gave up and called them each Rook. What did Gould call the
twins when they returned as sophomores? Rook. "It's always been
that way," says John Tobias, a childhood friend who's now the
twins' agent. "I can hardly think of an experience they haven't
shared."

These days they share something else: twin billing, as it were,
as the best doubles team in men's tennis. Seeded first at the
U.S. Open this week, the Bryans have won four titles this year.
While Bob is a lefty and Mike is righthanded, their games
are--surprise!--quite similar, a blend of power and athleticism
leavened by deft net play. But their trump card in doubles is
what others players call "that twin thing," a near-telepathic
connection. "We always know where the other is going to serve or
when he's going to poach," says Bob, who's ranked No. 196 in
singles to Mike's No. 660. "Sometimes we'll [confer] between
points, and all we have to do is look at each other."

Their rise to the top could be a boon to men's doubles, which can
only benefit from having as its top team a matching set of
personable, movie-star-handsome Californians. "We don't look at
it like we're carrying the banner," says Mike. "But we want to do
everything we can to help doubles."

Despite the twins' preternatural closeness, they fight plenty. A
few years ago, during a match in Cincinnati against Gustavo
Kuerten and Chris Woodruff, Bob missed an easy floater. When Mike
muttered in disgust, Bob unleashed an uppercut into his brother's
gut. "A total sucker punch," says Mike, who retaliated on the
changeover, whacking his brother in the knee with his racket
butt. (Need we mention that they lost the match?) The day before
the twins left for the European swing this spring, Mike pelted
Bob in the neck with a forehand. Bob responded by spearing his
brother in the back with his racket. Says Mike, "I was like, This
is not going to be a good trip."

But it was. At the French Open they won the first Grand Slam
title of their careers and surpassed the Gullikson twins, Tim and
Tom, as the sibling tandem with the most tournament victories in
the Open era (see chart). The last time brothers had won a Grand
Slam event was 1993, when Luke and Murphy Jensen took the French
Open title and celebrated with an ill-conceived WWF-style body
slam that left Murphy with a broken jaw. But this year, after
championship point at Roland Garros, the Bryans simultaneously
dropped to their knees and then embraced near the net, literally
brothers in arms. "The Jensens are only brothers," say Bob and
Mike--in stereo, of course. "We're twins."

COLOR PHOTO: BRIAN BAHR/GETTY IMAGES (TOP) MATCHED PAIR Along with their virtually identical looks, Mike (serving) and Bob possess similarly well-rounded games.COLOR PHOTO: TODD WARSHAW/GETTY IMAGES Murphy and Luke Jensen

Doubles DNA
Here are the winningest sibling doubles teams during the Open
era, which began in 1968.

Brother Team Tournament Wins

Bob and Mike Bryan 13
Tim and Tom Gullikson 10
Anand and Vijay Amritraj 8
Gene and Sandy Mayer 5
Alvaro and Jaime Fillol 4
Murphy and Luke Jensen 4

Source: ATP